Our Story

Our Story

We are driven by the belief that communication and education are the key to unlocking human potential. Our mission is to bridge communication barriers fostering meaningful connections for all, while ensuring that every child feels seen, valued, and included in their journey.

Empowering Education Through Visual Supports

At Smarty Symbols we celebrate the extraordinary journey of empowering education through the power of visual supports. As an organization driven by a profound mission, we stand committed to fostering inclusive learning environments, breaking barriers, and inspiring the minds of tomorrow.

Our story is rooted in the recognition of the significance of visual supports in education and communication. It’s a tale of how one woman on a mission to make educational images more inclusive became: a comprehensive library of over 60,000 symbols, each carefully crafted to represent diversity and inclusivity, an user-friendly designer, and a library with over 10,000 ready made educational resources.

Not Sure What Visual Support Are? Check out this video:

As we walk you through our story, you'll witness the profound impact of our mission-driven approach, the inspiring success stories from educators and therapists, and the power of collaboration that fuels our continuous growth.

Our Core Values

Representation

Visualizing Inclusivity, Empowering Every Voice.

Innovation

Breaking Free from Clunky & Outdated.

Quality

Elevating Special Education Software Standards

At the core of our mission is the commitment to empowering individuals, especially those with diverse abilities, to thrive in inclusive learning environments. Together, we will explore the boundless possibilities that emerge when Representation, Innovation, and Quality converge to redefine the world of visual supports.

Founding Vision

 Empowering Education through Innovation and Inclusivity

It all started with one woman and the need for representation and modernization in educational images

In the bustling world of education technology, there stands a remarkable visionary, Barbara Fernandes, whose passion for inclusion and innovation has redefined the landscape of visual supports. This is the story of how Barbara’s journey as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) led her to create Smarty Symbols, a revolutionary platform dedicated to empowering educators and students through diverse and engaging visual resources.

Barbara’s story begins in 2009 when she founded Smarty Ears, a pioneering venture in educational app development. Armed with a desire to create a real impact in the lives of her students and beyond, she released over sixty successful educational apps on the App Store. This early success fueled her passion for making learning accessible, engaging, and inclusive for all.

However, as Barbara continued to innovate through Smarty Ears, she noticed a critical gap in the world of visual supports. Existing symbol sets lacked diversity, often depicting white male stick figures and failing to represent the rich tapestry of humanity. Barbara knew she had to challenge this status quo and pave the way for change.

Driven by her passion and guided by her background in photography, Barbara founded Smarty Symbols in 2014. Armed with a talented team of illustrators, she set out on a mission to create a symbol library that celebrated individuality and inclusion. Her innovative “Character of Choice” feature was born – a groundbreaking concept that allowed users to personalize visual supports with characters representing various skin tones and diverse backgrounds.

Creating thousands of symbols is no small feat, but Barbara’s dedication and unwavering commitment propelled her forward. Over the years, Smarty Symbols evolved into a comprehensive, web-based platform, offering a vast library of over 30,000 symbols and empowering educators, SLPs, and families worldwide to effortlessly create personalized visual support materials.

Barbara’s vision went beyond technology; it extended into the realm of representation. By introducing diverse characters to Smarty Symbols, she challenged the industry to embrace inclusivity and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Her trailblazing efforts not only transformed Smarty Symbols but also inspired competitors to follow suit, sparking a movement towards more inclusive visual resources.

Beyond the technology and innovation, Barbara’s proudest achievement lies in the real impact Smarty Symbols has on children’s lives.  In 2022, Barbara spearheaded a national movement to make public spaces more inclusive through the addition of communication boards. To date, Barbara has led a team that has made over 200 spaces national wide more inclusive in one year.  From communication boards to AAC devices, her platform fosters meaningful connections and empowers every learner to reach their full potential.

Today, as the heart and soul of Smarty Symbols, Barbara continues to lead the charge towards an inclusive future in education and communities. Her remarkable journey, coupled with her passion for empowerment and change, has not only shaped a remarkable platform but also inspired countless educators and learners worldwide.

As we embark on this transformative journey with Smarty Symbols, we invite you to join us in celebrating Barbara’s legacy – a legacy built on innovation, representation, and the unwavering belief that education should embrace every individual’s unique potential.

"Empowering education through innovation and inclusion is not just my passion; it's my purpose. Every symbol, every character in Smarty Symbols is a testament to the belief that every learner deserves to see themselves represented and included. Together, we're shaping a brighter, more inclusive future for education."

-Barbara Fernandes, Founder of Smarty Symbols

Would you rather create educational materials like this:

Or Like This:

We are much more than our skin tone.

Evolution and Growth

From Digital Library to Web-Based Platform

Smarty Symbols Studio

As the demand for visual supports soared, Smarty Symbols evolved from a digital library into a robust web-based platform. The introduction of the Smarty Symbols Studio, equipped with a powerful activity designer, marked a transformative milestone. Educators, speech therapists, families and special education professionals now had access to over 30,000 symbols and more than 10,000 ready-made activities, all designed to streamline the creation of personalized visual materials. The symbols library was now powering the most user-friendly technology for creating custom learning materials.

Raising the Standard

Smarty Symbols began with a mission to revolutionize diversity in visual supports. Our “character of choice” feature challenged the lack of representation in existing symbol sets. We created characters that went beyond skin tone, embracing the richness of humanity.

While competitors took steps to include diversity, none could match the level of inclusivity that Smarty Symbols was built upon. Our library now boasts an impressive collection of over 30,000 symbols, each thoughtfully crafted to cater to the needs of an ever-changing world. Our commitment to evolving with the times and staying at the forefront of innovation has kept Smarty Symbols as the go-to platform for inclusive visual supports.

As we reflect on our growth and achievements, we are humbled to have contributed to the transformation of the AAC industry. Our driving force remains the belief that diversity and representation matter, and we are proud to continue setting new standards and inspiring others in our field.

Smarty Symbols raised the bar for diversity, transforming the AAC industry. We continue to set new standards, inspiring others in our field.

Making Spaces More Inclusive

In 2022, Barbara’s visionary pursuit of breaking communication barriers took a significant stride forward with the expansion of Smarty Symbols initiatives, streamlining the process for creating inclusive spaces.

Smarty Symbols introduced a series of purposeful communication boards designed specifically for public spaces, including city and school playgrounds. By working closely with organizations, Smarty Symbols ensures that each board is tailor-made to cater to the unique needs of the environment it serves.

Driven by a mission to foster inclusivity and accessibility for individuals of all abilities, Smarty Symbols has redefined the landscape of communication board design, customization, and implementation in public settings. Our extensive library of over 35,000 symbols empowers parks and recreation facilities to create highly personalized communication boards that resonate with the distinct characteristics and preferences of their communities. Through collaborative efforts, our team integrates relevant visuals, core vocabulary, and location-based icons to craft communication boards that go beyond playgrounds, reaching spaces such as waterparks, museums, clinics, nurse’s offices, classrooms, and virtually any public area.

Beyond providing communication boards, Smarty Symbols offers comprehensive support and resources. Our knowledgeable team assists in selecting suitable materials, sizes, and display options to ensure optimal functionality and durability. Smarty Symmbols provide valuable guidance on funding strategies and grant opportunities, empowering parks and recreation organizations to secure the necessary resources for their communication board projects.

Committed to continuous improvement and innovation, Smarty Symbols remains at the forefront of emerging technologies and trends in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Leveraging the power of QR codes, bilingual boards, and digital integration, we enhance the accessibility and usability of our communication boards, amplifying their impact on fostering communication and social interaction.

By joining forces with Smarty Symbols, parks and recreation facilities can create truly inclusive environments that promote communication, social engagement, and active participation for individuals of all ages and abilities. Together, we embark on a journey to transform public spaces into warm and welcoming communities, where everyone can communicate, connect, and thrive.

In just a little over a year, Smarty Symbols has achieved remarkable milestones, successfully designing and shipping hundreds of communication boards, fueling our passion and commitment to driving positive change and making communication accessible for all.

Empowering Educators, Enriching Students

Partnerships and Industry Impact

Smarty Symbols’ mission-driven approach and commitment to innovation soon caught the attention of educators, clinicians, and entrepreneurs in the field. As the library of symbols grew, it found its way into a myriad of products and platforms.

Some of Our Partners

Technology Partners and AAC

Smarty Symbols has become a driving force behind a wide array of technologies, supporting various educational platforms and applications. From our inception, we envisioned a future where our symbol library would empower and enhance diverse technologies, fostering inclusive learning experiences for students across the globe. Here are some of the remarkable technologies that Smarty Symbols powers:

Our Team

Meet a Few of Smarty Symbols Faces

Yousaf Qamar
Yousaf QamarCTO
Meet Yousaf Qamar, our whizz CTO! With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and a passion for IT, Yousaf’s journey took him from multinational firms to freelancing, before landing at Smarty Symbols. He’s our very own tech-swiss-army-knife, able to pivot from web development to digital marketing and even dabbling in cryptography. Known for his skill in navigating complex challenges and enthusiasm for exploring new data sources, he’s the digital dynamo driving our technology forward. Oh, and he’s also a staunch advocate for discovering the beauty of his home, Pakistan!
Jonathan Fernandes
Jonathan FernandesVP of Sales
Meet Jonathan Fernandes, our ever-creative VP of Sales! A former high school English teacher, Jonathan has a knack for storytelling and a deep understanding of education. Now, he weaves his pedagogical insights into his work at Smarty Symbols, turning the onboarding process into a narrative of learning and discovery. He takes schools by the hand and guides them on their journey to effective communication, ensuring every step is smooth and enjoyable. He’s not just a salesman, he’s a story-weaver, making every interaction with Smarty Symbols a compelling tale to remember.
Remi Salami, M.S CCC-SLP
Remi Salami, M.S CCC-SLPSales Director
Meet Remi Salami, our energetic Communication Boards Sales Director. An experienced speech-language pathologist, she uses her passion for AAC tools to help organizations bring Smarty Symbols Communication boards to life. Having worked with diverse age groups and language learners, Remi has a keen understanding of unique communication needs. She’s not just selling communication boards, she’s equipping individuals with the power to express themselves. An active advocate for inclusion, Remi is a voice for all, she’s the enthusiastic heart driving our commitment to accessible communication in public spaces.

Looking Ahead

As we reflect on our progress and the impact we’ve made, we still need your Support. Here is why: